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Better Tool for Controlling Growth


By voting to limit developers to recording 50 lots a year per subdivision, the Carroll County Planning Commission has come down on the side of controlling residential growth. While there is no magic in this figure, it halves the number of houses that developers currently can build in each of their subdivisions in a year.

It is clear that other types of growth controls, such as building moratoriums and limits on permits, create more inequities than

this arbitrary limit. Building moratoriums may freeze construction in large areas of the county but have no effect in other areas. Limiting permits, meanwhile, spurs a rush of development in the early part of the year. Yet once all the permits have been issued, the county's residential construction grinds to a halt.

Clearly, the planning commissioners were searching for a device that controls development but doesn't favor one part of the county over another. Moreover, they also seemed to be interested in moderating the "peaks and valleys" in residential construction that occur when the number of building permits are limited.

Under the old rule, developers could record 25 lots each quarter. When planners proposed reducing that number, some developers argued the rule should be scrapped altogether. They argued that county officials had ample tools to limit growth with Carroll's adequate facilities ordinance. Unfortunately, no one seems to pay attention to the adequate facilities ordinance until the roads are clogged, the schools overcrowded and farm land has been transformed into cookie-cutter subdivisions.

By reducing the number of houses that each developer can put up, the county will have an easier time building the public infrastructure needed to accommodate these new residents. The rapid population growth of the past decade has placed severe demands on Carroll's roads and schools. If current growth patterns were to continue, the quality of life for new as well as old residents would decline rapidly.

Because the planning, financing and public approvals for roads, schools, parks and libraries take much longer than approvals for residential subdivisions, public infrastructure will always play catch-up. With this new rule, at least, the gap will not be as great.

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